Imagine having no Google, no Youtube, no Facebook, no Vimeo, no Twitter…being forced to use Bing to search, no accessing any sites hosted on blogspot or wordpress, Gmail having intermittent outages, sites using Google Analytics taking ten times longer to load, Dropbox only working on occasion, and no other file sending services.
Imagine that there are equivalents of these sites that are state-owned and controlled: a search engine that only returns government approved sites, a censored twitter where you must register with your real name and passport number, and an internet radio site that is forced to play “red” songs celebrating the government. Imagine that these government-sanctioned alternatives are shoddily and hastily assembled and have none of the quality or convenience the originals had.
Of course, you can bypass all of this by paying a premium for a VPN. But even then, those can be unreliable or slow and often get shut down. And having to use them feels like a precursor to tiered internet services.
Everyday using the internet here feels like a struggle. There is so much restriction of information, even that which could be considered “benign”. Imagine not being able to have access to any open education sites, such as Khan Academy. The lack of convenience of Googling for an answer is something I miss a lot. Going back home to US internet is amazing and something I’ll never take for granted again.
I know SOPA doesn’t imply that all of this would happen in the US. But it certainly feels like a step towards this sort of restriction, and sets a dangerous precedent.
P.S. These restrictions here haven’t slowed down pirating a single bit. When I discuss it with my Chinese friends here, they say that everyone pirates everything; that anyone who legitimately purchases something that could be pirated is considered a fool for doing so.